English: The Anti-Passion Major

Last semester, I had the good fortune to teach mostly third and fourth year students in my English conversation classes.  While some of them were pretty low-level students, most of them had a really good grasp of vocabulary and syntax and spoke with ease and confidence.  Some of them had studied or lived abroad, and they all enjoyed learning about the cultures of various English-speaking countries. 

This semester isn’t so easy.  One of my coworkers had a class of sixty students (a conversation-based class, mind you, not a lecture), so he asked if I’d split the class with him.  Gladly, I said.  He kept the third and fourth year students (various majors) and gave me the first and second year students, who were all English majors.  English majors! I thought.  Piece of cake.  Imagine my surprise on the first day of class when I find that at least 50% of my students don’t understand most of what I’m saying (I speak slowly and clearly in class) and have a really difficult time producing a sentence.  Furthermore, they seem pretty apathetic toward participating in discussion. 

Curious as to why someone would major in English when (s)he doesn’t really seem to care about the subject, I pulled a couple of students aside last week and asked them: “Why are you majoring in English?”  One student told me that the other majors had program requirements, and English had none.  It was where students were put if they didn’t fit anywhere else.  One student told me that he was interested in American culture.  One student told me that she just really liked the sounds and the structure of the language. 

“So…” I continued.  “What are you planning to do after graduation?  How will your job connect to English?”  “It won’t,” one student said.  He continued: “I can just get any job.  Even a hard job.”  I realized at that point that maybe a lot of my students don’t want to be in university at all — they’re there because their parents are paying for them to be there, and it’s expected of them. 

In the US, we have fields of study that are built on passion, but don’t often result in an actual career for most people who major in them — art history, philosophy, and yes, English.  Maybe in Korea, English is the anti-passion major. 

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Spectaclephilia?

As we were on our way into a bar last night, an acquaintance of mine told me that he’d fulfilled a fantasy that he had long had; he said he would normally never tell anyone something like this, “but this is just the kind of relationship” we (he and I) have.  He went on to tell me that he had recently bought his girlfriend a beautiful, brand-new pair of prescription glasses, and then put them on her face and came allllll over them.

I am so glad that even though I sometimes share too much, I inspire others to tell me their dirty secrets.

Also, glasses are fucking hot. 

No Filter

My apologies if this is a bit rambly; I’m writing in a post-Nyquil haze.

I was out to birthday dinner with a good friend recently, and we were joking about how our friends call me “Sharing Jo” or “No Filter Constance” due to my eager enthusiasm to share the most intimate details of my sex life with my buddies (and / or strangers). 

Suddenly my friend’s laughter came down a notch to a wry smile as she said, “You know that sometimes we’re not kidding, right?  Like, you actually have no filter.”  “What?” I asked, alarmed.  “Yeah,” she continued.  “Like, sometimes, you actually make people really uncomfortable.  And when you’re talking about sex and we’re laughing, sometimes it’s uncomfortable laughter.”  This was news to me.  “Why didn’t anyone say anything before?!”  I asked.  “They didn’t really know what to say,” she said. 

My face grew very solemn, and I sincerely apologized — so much so that she started backtracking and telling me that it wasn’t a big deal… but it is a big deal.  Talking about sex, especially in an explicit way, to people who aren’t comfortable hearing about it can be a form of sexual harassment, and I don’t want to be that person.  There have been a lot of conversations as of late on blogs and podcasts about consent, and perhaps I should ask for consent before dropping my sex stories on people. 

Then she said something else that made me see all of this in a different light.  A couple of months ago, I was sitting at a bonfire with this friend and a mutual acquaintance of ours who lives a d/s lifestyle. The acquaintance and I were having a friendly discussion about service dommes, which to us was an everyday, banal conversation.  We were sitting away from most of the other people at the bonfire and it was a private conversation.  Fast forward to said birthday dinner; my friend says to me, “When you and [our mutual friend] were talking about kink at the bonfire, it was obviously making people uncomfortable because they’re not used to hearing about it.”  That’s when I realized that maybe we weren’t making those other people uncomfortable; perhaps my friend was uncomfortable with us talking about it in front of her friends whom she doesn’t talk about the kinky aspects of her life with. 

That’s fair.  She felt vulnerable and outed via association.  I don’t have the desire to out someone as kinky who’s not comfortable being outed.  I do, however, have the desire to demystify and normalize kink by talking about it as a regular part of my life.  Part of social change is discomfort; I think most of the people I talk about kink with are more curious than they are uncomfortable, but maybe that’s just my perception / bias as a kink-positive person.  That being said, this conversation made me reflect on whether or not I am saying too much at times. 

And the thing is — I actually do have a filter.  When I’m teaching or at work, I don’t speak about my personal life to my students or the school administration.  I swear like a sailor in my personal life, but I worked with children for years without once dropping a curse word in their presence.  I never talk to my extended family about my sex life, and when I’m in a professional environment I act like a professional.  I have a filter. 

I choose to talk about sex as a way of helping to change our social landscape around issues of sexuality, relationships, and gender.  I want to give people a safe space to talk about their sex lives and relationships.  I want to contribute to normalizing sexual practices, feelings, and behaviors that people are curious about but afraid of talking about.  My sexual politics are radical in some ways, and I want to make my voice heard.  But maaaaybe I don’t need to talk about prostate milking over dinner.                       

Mean Mommy

I’m the only female staff member among the English teachers at my university; I’m also the only English lecturer who has a university degree in education.  Or English.  So when my male coworkers decide to take our students on a field trip to the film festival (to see a movie that’s not even an English-language film), or to hold my students ten minutes into my class because they’re playing Apples to Apples, or to go to lunch with the students  instead of having class, or to cancel my class time so that they can sit back and let the students do a scavenger hunt, or to tell me that if I want I can show videos in my class because that’s what they do to kill time, I kind of feel like a divorced parent.  More specifically, a divorced mom who makes her kids eat their vegetables and do their homework and help with the chores.  I’m the mean mom, and my male coworkers are the cool dads who buy their kids presents and show up once a month to take them skating or to an amusement park. 

I don’t have time for that shit.  I have actual content to teach them, carefully planned and scaffolded projects where they come to learn things on their own, confidence to help build, papers to score, meaningful shared learning experiences and conversations to be had. 

I know that someday my students will appreciate the effort they put into my classes because I make them work hard, and the effort I put into planning and adapting my curriculum with their educational needs in mind.  But it feels like today is not that day.